Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Confident Scotland tipped to progress to Super 12s. Kyle Coetzer's side are by now are well used to the conditions, having been in Oman for the better part of a month
Kyle Coetzer's side are by now are well used to the conditions, having been in Oman for the better part of a month
Though Scotland had a torrid time at the 2019 Global T20 Qualifier, struggling to adjust to the intense heat, collapsing to defeat in their opening match to the unfancied Singapore, just scraping into fourth place in their group before belatedly hitting their stride to eliminate hosts UAE in a must-win knock-out and besting Oman in the fifth-place play-off, they head into their First Round campaign looking in more than decent shape.
Despite finding themselves back in the punishing heat of the Gulf, Kyle Coetzer's side are by now well used to the conditions, having been in Oman for the better part of a month, coming off the back of a successful CWC League 2 trilateral ODI series against Group B rivals Oman and Papua New Guinea. Unbeaten in that series, Scotland have carried their form into the shorter format. They have racked up wins against Papua New Guinea and the highly rated Netherlands in the interim, as well as besting Namibia in their second warm-up match to avenge their defeat the previous week.
Most of the Scottish top-order batters have put up scores in the past few days, and while the Scots' top three of Coetzer, the big-hitting George Munsey and Calum MacLeod are widely seen as the strongest top-order in the Associates game, Richie Berrington down the order has looked the man in the hottest form. Berrington memorably struck Scotland's first T20I century against Bangladesh in their first win over a full member at Westvliet back in 2012, which together with Munsey's 127* against the Dutch in 2019 makes Scotland the only side in their group to boast two T20I centurions.
It was the slow-bowlers that did the job against the Dutch, however, with Mark Watt's left arm finger-spin and newcomer Chris Greaves' fast legspin accounting for four wickets apiece as the Netherlands were skittled for just 90. The slow left-arm combination of Watt and Hamza Tahir has served Scotland well as a contain-and-conquer combo through the middle overs in the longer format, though the tactic may be tested in T20 when set bats look to take them on. The addition of Greaves' fast wrist-spin adds a potentially game-changing threat on turning tracks, however, and the prospect of Scotland fielding three dedicated spinners is far from unthinkable. Conversely the seam attack, while capable, remains somewhat one-dimensional.
The strength of the batting alone is enough to put Scotland in the running for a Super 12s spot, arguably favoured over hosts Oman on recent form and entirely capable of ambushing Bangladesh in their opening game. While Papua New Guinea are more than capable of acting as spoilers to a potential run to the main draw, Scotland know the Barramundis too well to treat them lightly. On paper, one would expect their final game against Oman to prove decisive, if they carry their momentum into their first match against Bangladesh, Scotland could conceivably have half a foot in the Super 12s by this time next week.
Danger Man: George Munsey's abilities are well-known and rightly-feared in the Associates world, where it's joked that “Hacker” hits the ball further these days than back when he was an aspiring golfer. While Munsey tends to play a less obtrusive role down the order in fifty over cricket, playing second fiddle to the likes of Coetzer or MacLeod in T20s, his array of sweeps, ramps reverse sweeps, deployed against spin or seam and capable of clearing the ropes on the full both ways make him Scotland's most potent weapon in the shorter format.
Rising Star: Chris Greaves, at 31 years old, is arguably a little long in the tooth to be labelled a rising star, but then the South-African born wrist-spinner's inclusion in the Scotland side is arguably overdue. Bowling a mix of fast legspin and leg cutters, Greaves adds an incisive dimension to Scotland's spin attack that it had arguably been lacking to date.
Key Question: Ali Evans, a tall and rangy medium pacer who can troubling bounce from back of a length, ranks third in the all-time T20I wicket-takers table for Scotland, but is not a sure-fire starter in the side. The question speaks not so much to an embarrassment of riches in the pace department, but as a tricky question of team balance and a solid but uninspiring selection of right-arm seamers none of whom, bar arguably Sharif for his ability to hit a yorker length consistently at the death, have made a convincing case for inclusion. Evans himself is indispensable in the longer format but has lacked penetration or economy in T20 of late, yet no clear alternative presents itself. The balance of the attack in general remains an issue for Scotland, and though their batting may get them through the first round, the main draw will be less forgiving of merely adequate right arm fast-medium.
Strengths: Scotland's batting has long been a cut above the competition at Associate level, but with most all of the top order in form they have the capability to shock top-tier teams. MacLeod, Berrington and Coetzer have proven records against full member opposition, while Munsey is a menace to any attack. Compounding things for opposition bowlers is Michael Leask finding form in his role as lower order finisher, bringing nigh-insurmountable totals into range for the Scots. The addition of Greaves adds an x-factor to an already solid slow bowling unit which, should they make it to the main draw in the UAE, ensures Scotland will be more than a mere big-hitting banana-skin.
Weaknesses: While the Scottish pace attack is far from pedestrian – Sharif, Davey and Wheal all good enough to hold their own in county cricket, discussions of the Scots' seam bowling inevitably feature the word “samey.” If the first round group stage is a step up from the Associate circuit, the main draw will be a half a flight of stairs. And if the Scotland seam attack risks being found out in the latter stages, likewise the worry that the climate may again tell as the schedule wears on becomes increasingly acute should Scotland run deep in the tournament.
Past Highs and Lows: Long seen as more of a 50-over team, Scotland's early record in the early days of the then T20 WC is desultory. A 51-run loss at the hands of Pakistan and a washout against India at the 2007 edition rather set the tone, twice bowled out for double-digit scores in 2009 and then failing to qualify for the subsequent editions, the first signs of a turnaround came at the 2015 Qualifier, which they hosted jointly with Ireland and where they shared the trophy with the Netherlands after a washed-out final. On their return to the global stage at the 2016 edition they ran both Afghanistan and Zimbabwe close before recoding a win against Hong Kong in appropriately rainy conditions- their first in a top-tier ICC tournament. That was not enough to see them through to the main draw then, but they will be looking to go at least one better this time round, and for the first time can make reasonable claim to being favoured to progress.
Bangladesh vs Scotland – Al Amerat Cricket Stadium – 14:00, Sunday October 17
Scotland vs PNG – Al Amerat Cricket Stadium – 14:00, Tuesday October 19
Oman vs Scotland – Al Amerat Cricket Stadium – 18:00, Thursday October 21 (D/N)